melanoma rates overall are
leveling off, the incidence of melanoma occurring on the
head continues to rise, a new study from Finland shows.
The researchers report that melanoma rates rose sharply
from the early 1950s through the late 1980s, after which
the increase in rates of this deadly skin cancer leveled
off for all sites on the body except head, in all age
Dr. Timo Hakulinen of the Institute for Statistical and
Epidemiological Cancer Research in Helsinki and colleagues
write suggest melanoma of the head area may have a
different cause from melanoma occurring at other sites.
Hakulinen and his team also found that for men, melanoma
on the trunk of the body was the most common, while for
women melanoma occurred most commonly on the legs and
hips. These gender differences became more pronounced
during the study period, which covered 1953 to 2003.
The researchers looked at changes in melanoma rates over
time by analyzing data on 16,414 cases of melanoma from
the Finnish Cancer Registry, which contains information on
virtually the entire Finnish population, they note in the
International Journal of Cancer.
In 1953, the incidence of melanoma was 1.5 per 100,000
people for men and 1.8 per 100,000 for women. By 2003, the
rate had risen to 12.8 per 100,000 men and 10.4 per
100,000 women. Incidence rose about 5% annually from the
beginning of the study period to the mid-1980s, and then
leveled off.Melanoma of the head, with most cases
affecting the ears, was the only type to show a steady
increase during the course of the study, suggesting that
the cause of melanoma on the head may be different from
that of melanoma affecting other body areas, the